dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

Why do people say 'after dark' when what they mean is 'during dark'? After dark would be when it's light again, right? * There are 10 types of people in this world -- those who read binary, and those who don't. * I'm rethinking the whole brown rice thing. What if it's just more white liberal self-hatred? Whole wheat, honey, unbleached flour. All better. Sez who? * Eugene should be HQ for White People for Diversity. We'll fight for diversity to be included in books, which is where we know to look for it. * Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give a man a pillow, and he'll dream of steak. * What can you say about a state that puts the town of North Bend 225 miles southwest of Bend? We rely on visitors for entertainment.

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Isle of Man Addresses a Deeper Issue

October 14th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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Five years ago, I brought back from New Zealand a trick they use to increase neighborliness, but now I can report from a place where neighborliness has been taken a step further.

New Zealand does not regulate its citizens’ mailbox designs. I wandered residential Auckland and I saw dozens of examples. I saw mail inside dragons’ jaws, doll houses, repurposed trombones, and almost anything else you can imagine. Not all the mail receptacles were necessarily practical, but a little soggy mail seemed to be a fair trade for curbside self-expression.

Isle of Man outdoes every other advanced nation at neighborliness, because they’ve chosen to dispense with addresses altogether. This attitude toward house numbers is not unusual in rural England, but I don’t know any other country that skips them altogether.

The island nation is five times the size of Eugene, but with half as many people. Or half-again larger than Portland, with one eighth the population. Isle of Man is a sovereign nation under the United Kingdom’s military protection. It sits in the Irish Sea, mixing Celtic, Norse, and Roman influences. Its parliament has been meeting every year, they claim, since 979 AD.

As America contemplates what could be the end of its 240-year experiment, I thought it might be worth exploring the oldest democracy on the planet. The exploring was trickier than I had anticipated.

The government doesn’t give every house a number. Instead, residents give their houses names. I stayed for a week at Westlodge on Castletown Road.

I asked several people what never occurred to me as a difficult question: “Where is Westlodge on Castletown Road?”

Each took the first three words as my question and the last three as its answer. “Where is Westlodge?” “On Castletown Road.” Never mind that Castletown Road is two miles long, or that there are no rules against two buildings being named Westlodge.

I asked for an appointment with Sarah Read, Communications Manager at the Isle of Man Post Office. She immediately arranged to meet me the next morning. I got lost on my way there, because even the national post office headquarters does not have an address.

I stopped for directions three times, after I learned that GPS serves no real purpose. Each time I was asked what landmarks I knew. (None!) For the record, their offices are just past B&Q. You can’t miss it.

Read welcomed me warmly when I finally arrived, and brought me upstairs to interview a couple of other managers.

Each of them wondered why I saw their system as problematic, but each had stories of problems they had personally encountered. One had been invited to an evening wedding, and recalled looking at each house name before finding the right one. Another recounted the difficulty that came with training a new mail carriers.

“You’re never really lost,” Read explained. “Confused for a bit, maybe. It’s too small an island to get lost.” Each reassured me that they rely on “local knowledge” to keep things straight.

I asked a taxi driver what he would do if he picked up a visitor at the airport (not naming names here) who asked to be dropped at Westlodge on Castletown Road.

“I’d take him there,” he replied, mimicking the post office’s “what problem?” attitude.

Yes, but what if you didn’t know where Westlodge was?

“Oh,” he replied, as if the reality of it just dawned on him. “Then I’d get on the radio and ask the other taxi drivers. Somebody would know.” Local knowledge.

If I’d stayed longer, I might have been able to ask an ambulance dispatcher. I’m pretty sure I would have gotten the same answer. “Asking around” doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to find any particular location, but no one I talked to believed it was a problem.

The more I thought about it, the clearer it became. Their system addresses a deeper issue. If everybody has to “ask around” to deliver a package or attend a wedding, the harder work of knowing and being known is already partly complete.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Being Donald is Harder Than Ever

October 7th, 2016 · No Comments

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As Donald Trump claims every front page of every news source, I believe we’ve overlooked one group of people that his candidacy has already hurt, regardless of the election’s outcome. A Trump loss in November will salve most wounds quickly. But for others, including myself, the damage done will barely diminish.

Somebody must speak up for all the Donalds who will have had their given name tarnished or exalted in ways we never asked for or expected. Who will speak up for the dontrodden among us?

Donald is a name that’s relatively uncommon, but not unique. I remember only once or twice not being the only Donald in a childhood classroom. Donald’s not like Stephen or Richard or John. Those popular names are attached to saints and kings and, ahem, presidents.

My early years were spent running away from the shadow of Donald Duck, who was seldom the hero in any of Disney’s tales. He was Mickey’s set-up guy, often the one who absorbed the blow when the punchline came. If Mickey had been a name mothers gave their boys in the 1950s, my lifetime therapy bills would have been much higher.

Once my peers were no longer admitting any love of comic books, I thought my name was in the clear. Don Rickles was well-known, but already in his twilight, doing his bits on daytime game shows while we were in school or on Johnny Carson after we had gone to bed.

Don Drysdale was a great pitcher for the Dodgers, but always second fiddle to his all-star teammate, Sandy Koufax. I came to accept the shadow of secondhood as my fate. Don Knotts played Barney Fife and Don Adams was Maxwell Smart, but both were portrayed as fall guys, following the same pattern as Disney’s Donald Duck.

“Don who?” was a joke my parents told, but it was funny only if you knew the Hawaiian singer Don Ho, which I didn’t.

Just when my name could be my own, the Osmonds burst onto the pop music scene, fronted by the pre-pubescent but ever-present Donny Osmond. At first, I thought I could claim some separation. My parents spelled my name differently. Since I shared Donald with my father, he was always Don and I grew up Donnie. (“Donald” was reserved for legal forms and whenever I was in trouble.)

“Not with a ‘Y’!” I insisted, begging for some separation from the boy band Donny. I learned painfully there are distinctions without differences.

Don, like my brothers’ names Bill and Bob, doubles as a common noun and also a verb. Is it any wonder I grew up fascinated with words?

I still remember the moment I was standing on the risers for a middle school choral rehearsal when my friends snickered at the line, “don we now our gay apparel.” The Godfather popularized don as a noun. That underworld context might have been my first brush with any epynomic coolness.

The donscape was mostly barren after that, at least for me. Teenage narcissism has its benefits. I’ve asked others with the same name and they see the same don dearth.

We didn’t fear when “The Donald” burst into national consciousness two decades ago. We were inoculated early, protected from any damage caused by cartoon characters. To this day, I’ve never seen an episode of Trump’s “Apprentice” series.

But now there’s no escaping his name and reputation. He makes sure of that. What’s more remarkable to me is that no one has asked me how it feels. In this town that would like to add some reference to feelings to its “Walk / Don’t Walk” signs, no one has brought it up.

I think I know why. They think they know the answer and that it’s probably not pleasant. So it’s easier to just avoid the elephant in the room whose name happens to be the same as mine. But for those careful and considerate friends, let me speak for my fellow D-list celebrities: “Being Donald is built on pain. Whatever Trump does to the name cannot exceed what Osmond and Duck already did.”


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Fripperies So Soon

September 30th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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Fifth Friday Footnotes, Follow-ups and Far-Flung Fripperies:

  • My best takeaway from Ireland: “Don’t disrespect the tea.” I was taught to wrap the tag and string around the bag on a spoon, wringing out the liquid remains. Now I will try to unlearn that lesson. It’s a bad habit to take what is willingly given.
  • Our appetites are more often whetted than sated.
  • BTW is the new P.S.
  • Your 40-year roof will last 40 years, but only if you keep it indoors.
  • “Eddress” is not a word, but it should be.
  • Give me just one instance of pomp without circumstance.
  • Being noticed is good. Being remembered is better.
  • I sometimes get Rhode Island and Delaware confused.
  • I don’t understand why beer companies don’t produce a series of commercials with different endings. They know football fans will see the ads six times in three hours. Why not reward their attention?
  • Language sometimes gets set in its ways. Boats “set sail” and books refer readers to “see above,” as if sailboats and scrolls were still the norm.
  • No one should feel obligated to buy anything in an airport’s Duty Free shop.
  • Don’t look now, but Nissan built way too many Leafs.
  • Dublin’s city planners once imposed a glass tax to soak its richest downtown merchants. (Many blocked their windows to avoid paying.) Eugene should now do the opposite.
  • A fruit salad shouldn’t include grapefruit (for taste) or bananas (for texture).
  • Frugality sees only practicality in the mirror.
  • Donald Trump now risks losing the 400-pound-male vote, which may have been one of his few remaining strong demographic groups.
  • “Uprising” is demeaningly redundant, unless it refers to when the uppity rise — then it’s just demeaning.
  • I need reading glasses only when I’m tired or sad. Usually I don’t mind the extra work of squinting.
  • Mornings aren’t enjoyed more because they never play hard to get.
  • City dwellers naturally understand the limit of statistics. They hear about percentages but they observe particulars.
  • I’ve been in other places where bugs seem to have vanished, but no other place has letters to the editor on the subject.
  • How long before some baseball wizard decides none of his team’s pitchers should ever throw more than 50 pitches or three innings in a game?
  • Weeding is fun only when you’re winning or making discernible progress.
  • Should Dairy Queen be concerned that DQ has become shorthand for “disqualified”?
  • Eugene is a 10-to-2 town that likes to congratulate itself for working through lunch.
  • Why has no presidential candidate has ever moved aggressively to “own” the Olympics? The timing and tone align perfectly and predictably.
  • A truth sundae sometimes tastes better with a little fudge.
  • Some secular humanists are trying to retain Sunday “church” for its social benefits. They call themselves “faitheists.”
  • Google has banned payday loan ads on its sites. Why? Because sometimes advertising can be targeted too well. Watch this awareness grow and make everything more complicated.
  • When sunglasses make the world look darker, they also somehow make it feel a bit cooler.
  • Some things that are easily found are also impossible to seek.
  • Freedom has always been for sale. Freedom to change travel plans? Refundable tickets cost more. Have your choice of any rental car on the lot? That costs extra.
  • Remove the threshold from a building and it becomes a sculpture — an entirely different thing.
  • I’ll bet you can’t leave your TV remotes face down. You could, but you don’t.
  • Stories shed light in places where statistics can’t reach.
  • Does it help to know The Register-Guard’s new publisher comes to us from Bakersfield?
  • I’m guessing that the University of Oregon’s leaders are following a simple directive: Don’t be near the bottom of any of the Association of American Universities’ four ranking criteria: research spending, percentage of tenured faculty, awards, and citations.
  • If you’ve never worn flannel in July or shorts in January, you’re not yet officially an Oregonian.
  • A pet rescue organization has the best slogan I’ve heard in a long time: “Where help is a four-legged word.”
  • The Container Store is redundant.

Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Yay, Ems! Go, Cubs!

September 16th, 2016 · No Comments

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Allan Benavides has one of the hardest jobs in baseball. As the general manager for the Eugene Emeralds, he’s on the field only when the stands are empty. He pitches his team to the Chamber of Commerce or to corporate clients, hoping for a hit. He switch hits every day, alternating short-term gains enjoyed locally with the long-term interests of his parent club in Chicago.

Every minor league baseball team is an exercise in divided loyalties. Winning games is good and fun, but that’s not the ultimate goal for Benavides, Ems manager Jesus Feliciano, or for any of the players on the team. Everybody wants to see this particular group of men score more runs in nine innings than their opponent, but that’s not really the point.

Northwest League is a short season training league. The team’s major league sponsor, the Chicago Cubs, sends prospects to Eugene to work on skills. There’s a slugger who pulls every pitch, a speedster who can’t bunt, a pitcher whose slider sails when he’s behind in the count.

They hone those skills in practice, but also under pressure — when a game is on the line. Any coach or educator will tell you that failure is the best teacher, and yet the team still wants to win every game. That’s why Benavides and Feliciano have such hard jobs.

Losing games the right way is what they are paid to do, but sport is never completely predictable, so every night also offers the possibility of winning a game the wrong way. Things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s the plan. If an infielder misses a cut-off throw, does the catcher position himself correctly? Does the pitcher run to back up the first baseman for routine ground outs? Is the center fielder alert, in case a runner attempts to steal second?

Those are the lessons the players are here to learn. Their competence at this level earns them a higher rung on the ladder to the big leagues. Players who succeed are rewarded with a promotion, and the Eugene Emeralds receive a new player to take his place, with different skills to be perfected.

A man in a similar line of work once described this sort of nurturing churn as “laying eggs on an escalator.” You do the work to get things started, but the real success will happen elsewhere, while you’re getting more things started. It never ends, and that’s by design.

The Emeralds reached what feels like an end this week, when they won their first league championship in 41 years. After decades of futility playing for the San Diego Padres, their new affiliation with the Chicago Cubs produced a winner almost immediately.

That might be because the Cubs hired wunderkind Theo Epstein as general manager, hoping to reverse a century of being Chicago’s lovable losers. I grew up cheering for the Cubs, who borrowed the Washington Senators’ unofficial motto. The Cubs were always “first in our hearts, and last in the National League.”

Epstein went all in for youth. He stocked the Cubs’ farm system with good players. He paid extra for excellent managers, who could get the most out of those players. Suddenly, the Emeralds saw above them a crowded escalator filled with hatching eggs.

The Cubs offer no glide path to the Mother Ship for promising phenoms. The lanes ahead of them are crowded with other good players. So the Northwest League’s best pitcher, Manuel Rondon, stayed put in Eugene. He didn’t graduate to a more advanced team in the Cubs’ system. He pitched the team’s final game and collected the trophy with his teammates on Tuesday.

Winning is a skill that Epstein wants all of his players to experience and master. Football coaches teach players how to celebrate when they reach the end zone with this bit of pith: “Act like you’ve been there before.”

And so this baseball team, and each of its members, learned a new skill this week — trophy-hoisting. That’s a skill and a memory they’ll take from Eugene. And someday we’ll say we remember them back when.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Free Cake Parade for Eugene Graduates

September 9th, 2016 · No Comments

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Here’s an idea we can borrow from another Oregon town, and we’ve got nine months to plan it. Klamath Falls invited every graduate from every local school — even kindergarten — to an early summer celebration for their achievement.

Their “Graduation Sensation” in June started with a parade and ended with free cake. In between, the town raised almost $20,000 to give away in scholarships. Even those who had no plans for entering college were eligible for local gift cards.

Organizers, who hope to make it an annual event in Klamath Falls, are trying to solve two problems in that community of 21,000. Their town has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the state. Almost a thousand graduates of their Oregon Institute of Technology were surveyed this year and almost none had plans to settle in the Klamath Basin.

Eugene’s graduation rates are not as dismal as Klamath Falls, but they still merit our attention. Putting a solution ahead of a problem is not always a bad thing, especially when it involves free cake.

Anything our community does to celebrate graduations will synchronize with University of Oregon President Michael Schill’s shrewd strategy to address rising tuition costs. Quite sensibly, he is focused on increasing the percentage of students who graduate in four years.

If a UO student can graduate in four years instead of five, that’s a tuition savings of 20 percent, not to mention the extra year of post-graduate income. Increasing graduation rates also ensures that students receive the benefit of the degree when they first enter the workforce. A college degree is still a good investment for most young people, but only if they matriculate.

If we can align the ambitions of Oregon’s flagship university with our identity as its host community, Eugene could do something that college towns rarely do. We could become the paradigm of a [BEGIN ITALICS] college city [END ITALICS], committed to learning and curiosity at our core. A party for all local graduates will help us grow into our best selves — collectively and individually.

It’s a rare young person who doesn’t need a tangible goal to focus his or her efforts. Watching citizens of Eugene line the streets to applaud their accomplishment might be just what our children need when their spelling or trigonometry homework seems daunting.

I’m sure there are thousands who would line the streets to celebrate these successes. Some might even reverse the usual roles and bring candy to throw at the paraders. Eugene’s prankster heritage has some tasty benefits.

The community’s benefit should not be overlooked. We’re all too familiar with the pangs that come with watching our best and brightest move away. They will go where they have the best opportunities, but if we send them away with a party, we better the chances they’ll want to return. There’s nothing like leaving a good last impression.

We’d be surprised how many students we have — or even how many schools! Eugene and Bethel School Districts produce the most graduates every year, but the University of Oregon and Lane Community College cannot be overlooked. Then there’s all our charter, private, Waldorf and Montessori schools. Don’t forget Pacifica University, Northwest Christian University, New Hope Christian College, and Gutenberg College. The list goes on.

We’re a learning community that loves a good party. Without the Eugene Celebration, we’re short on parades around here. Let’s celebrate one of the best parts of ourselves — our students.

Every student who will be spending the summer wondering what it will be like in the fall at a new school (or being finished with school) should be invited to hear the community’s congratulations. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A simple cap-and-gown procession on 13th Avenue between downtown and the university would suffice.

It may be hard for many of us to remember what it was like finishing fifth or eighth or twelfth grade, but that’s all the more reason to make that memory a little richer for our young people. We can share their celebration, even if only the graduates get free cake.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Olympics as Prelude

September 2nd, 2016 · No Comments

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Oregon track coach and Track Town USA president Vin Lananna described his August this way: “I’m not sure there’s been anything quite as rewarding or exciting or as tiring as the Olympic Games. Quite honestly, it was fantastic.”

Not yet, anyway.

Nobody involved in the Rio games will say that it was a good prelude, but that’s what Eugene is starting to feel. The best is yet to come. Many top athletes have already set their training clocks to Tokyo time, aiming for better performances at the 2020 Olympics. Coach/impresario Lananna, the city of Eugene and University of Oregon are all looking one year further — to hosting the World Championships in 2021.

Every “spit and shine” detail across the region is pointing toward that singular horizon. Ask any painter how they organize everything on their canvas and they’ll tell you a secret that works for life beyond the palette. A common vanishing point keeps everything in perspective. But let’s not focus so much on 2021 that we don’t pause for a moment to enjoy 2016.

Lananna was taking notes to optimize the athletes’ experience of Hayward Field in 2021, but that didn’t distract from the task at hand. Team USA dominated the Track and Field medal haul, winning 13 gold medals and 32 medals overall.

But Oregon’s influence was deeper and wider than that. Alberto Salazar’s training methods are no longer considered controversial. “Oregon Project” protege Galen Rupp finished his second marathon ever with a bronze medal. His Portland training partner Mo Farah took two distance-running gold medals, but those wins are credited to his home country of Great Britain.

Ducks seemed to be everywhere, bringing home about a dozen medals. Devon Allen made it to the finals in the 110 hurdles, finishing fifth. (Imagine Allen’s UO classmates trying to match his summer vacation stories.) He’s already looking ahead to 2020: “I kind of accomplished that Olympic dream, obviously. In four years, I want to win a gold medal, so that’s one more step to that dream.”

The planning horizon looks different for Eugene’s ultimate power couple, Ashton Eaton and Brianne Thiesen-Eaton. They’ve added to their family mantle another gold medal for the men’s decathlon, plus a bronze in the women’s heptathlon.

They are looking ahead to another challenge of a different sort. They are planning to start a family. There’s no reason to believe they won’t build their parenting skills with the same vigor and commitment they’ve demonstrated in everything else they’ve done together.

I once ended up sitting behind these two on a quick flight to San Francisco. I saw Eaton texting his mother before the cabin door shut. They snuggled a bit with the arm rest lifted between them. They dropped what they were doing to listen to the safety announcements. When Eaton looked behind him to locate the nearest exit, that’s when I knew he was different from the rest of us.

Some of his success comes from good coaching, but following directions shows a measure of character that cannot be invented. It’s one thing to be the best. It’s something else to carry it with such grace.

Eaton caught some flack from fans for wearing a Canada hat while cheering his wife’s efforts. Online trolls accused him of being a traitor, cheering for any athlete not representing the USA — even his Canadian wife.

Eaton didn’t back down, taking to Twitter: “Have I not represented USA well? Yet u demand more. Ur respect is hard earned. I support the country that produced my wife; who ru2 shame me?”

And then, the ever-reasonable but devoted husband claimed the high road in a follow-up tweet: “Are your grandparents from another country? Will your grandchildren be? What then? Hopefully you’ll adopt a more reasonable view.”

We should all be glad these two want children. By the time their Ducklings are running, skipping and jumping, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk or others may be looking for volunteers to start colonizing Mars. The Eatons would be perfect candidates. Just when world domination has been completely achieved, more worlds emerge to be conquered.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Three Views of Competition (From the Street)

August 26th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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I have a friend who writes a syndicated newspaper column, offering her readers financial advice. I asked her once about her three houses in three states. She paused, as if formulating a different answer for me than she might give to others. “It helps,” she said with a wink and a smile, “when you eat your own cooking.”

I don’t think she was telling me that most people eat out too much. I think she was saying that her financial advice wouldn’t be very good if she didn’t follow it herself.

I recommended to readers a few weeks ago that they could unlearn a childhood “stranger danger” fear and acquaint themselves the world around them a little better if they bought or sold a few incidental items, using the classified ads or craigslist.

I took my own advice the last couple of weeks. I learned a lot. I’ve fudged a few details to protect anonymity, but here is a short report.

I bought some unused lockers a Ducks athletic department surplus sale about 20 years ago. I used them as a fun alternative to doorway drawers for hats and gloves, but I eventually grew tired of the joke. So I placed an ad. The woman who called wanted me to verify the dimensions, which I did.

She rolled up to my house, cash in hand, and asked me to help her load the lockers into a small school bus she had converted into a mobile fashion store. The lockers fit, just barely, and we chatted for a moment in the street. “Funky stuff like this is impossible to find in Portland. It gets snapped up so quick!”

She’d recently arrived in the Whiteaker neighborhood, looking for the Portland funk at a slower pace. Her vehicle and vision were nothing if not unique, but she can’t find a way to stand out in Portland. Everyone can do their part to “keep Portland weird,” but it helps if you have a full-body tattoo or a three-legged dog.

I then bought a television from a young man who needed money to make rent. He and his girlfriend had just moved into an apartment on a busy road near campus. He’s out of a job. I agreed that it “stinks,” using that softer word, in case I wanted to reprint the exchange in a family newspaper.

“It’s not losing the job that (stinks),” he told me as he wrapped the cords. “It’s when the unemployment runs out. That’s what makes it hard.” He lowered his voice when he said it, perhaps not wanting his girlfriend in the next room or neighbors though the thin walls to hear.

I asked him what sort of work he wanted. “Pretty much anything, at this point.” I think I passed five “Help Wanted” signs driving home, but this young man hadn’t connected with any of them. I didn’t learn exactly why. I’m sure there’s more to the story.

The next day I met a young woman whose story was very different. She had an end table that fits my decor, so I was at her door with the amount she requested. Her living room was mostly empty, because she and her husband were moving to San Diego.

“We have no jobs or friends down there, but it’s where we want to be,” she said. “We’re young. We’ll work it out. It will be an adventure.” She smiled. “We’ve always been the ones with a little more faith.” I didn’t ask the object of her faith. It didn’t matter.

I congratulated them for taking the risks to realize their dreams. I’ll admit I was contrasting her with my TV friend, who had exhausted his unemployment benefits.

Reflecting back, if I had seen these three in the grocery line ahead of me, I might not have noticed much difference between them. But I had opportunity to ask each a simple question: “What’s your story?”

Stories shine in ways statistics can’t. Everyone strives differently. You can welcome, dread, or mitigate competition, but you cannot escape it — at least not for very long.


Don Kahle ( blogs at

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Greater Greater Eugene

August 26th, 2016 · No Comments

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Big things usually change slowly, except when they don’t. The town of Eugene changed this week. After growing in population, reputation and confidence for decades, it became the city of Eugene. Some will say it happened a while ago. Others will insist it hasn’t happened yet and that its cityhood might still be averted.

A town becomes a city the same way a child becomes an adult. It hasn’t really happened until those around you say it has. And that’s what happened this week, when Lane County’s economic development corporation announced that it had renamed itself Greater Eugene Inc.

“People who are not from here may not know where the Willamette Valley is, or even how to pronounce Willamette,” said board president Mike Eyster. The organization had recently changed its name from Lane Metro Partnership to the Southern Willamette Economic Development Corp.

In retrospect, Eyster admitted, “SWEDCO doesn’t have much of a ring to it. We thought having a word in our title that has some indication of where we are was pretty important.” That word is Eugene.

Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg agreed with the choice. “You need to have some sort of name recognition,” she said. In the end, whatever notoriety Springfield gleaned from The Simpsons couldn’t compete with what the Oregon Ducks have brought Eugene.

Longtime Springfield mayor Bill Morrisette once floated the idea of merging the two towns into a single Emerald City, but it was greeted with the same enthusiasm as a Hatfield-McCoy wedding.

Eugene’s growth into a city will benefit Springfield, as well as most of the rest of Lane County. Big systems need a strong center of gravity.

Once the central body gains sufficient mass, the orbits of all the others become more stable. Education, employment, entertainment — everything that causes people to move around — begin to cohere. Changes become more predictable, and so more manageable.

It has not been an easy effort. Local football success may have accelerated the process, saving us from an additional decade of angst. During Robb Hankins’ brief tenure as the head of Eugene’s Cultural Services, he lobbied for a rallying slogan. He declared Eugene to be, without a hint of irony, “the world’s greatest city for the arts and outdoors.”

In retrospect, Hankins was being dumb as a fox. The first three words ignited controversy and more than a little embarrassment. Of course we’re not “the world’s greatest” anything, so we toned down the claim to be simply “a great city for the arts and outdoors.”

Arts and outdoors was never a point of controversy, but look what that magician snuck through the middle, right before our eyes! “City.” Belatedly, I say to Hankins, “Bravo.”

I’ve written about the slogan before, arguing that the most important word is “and” because Eugene has bountiful urban and rural recreation choices within its borders. In the state of “OR” Eugene offers “and.”

We knew our claim for recreational greatness would not be challenged, but in a state without a sales tax, you can’t build an economy with good shows and plenty of open space. Parking fees and restaurant tips will never do more than cover basic costs. Incomes are what matter most, and the best way to increase the average wage is to make more jobs available.

That’s where’s Eyster’s organization, and its newly hired director, Ward Wimbish, come into the picture. It will be Wimbish’s job to “sell” the region to companies looking for opportunities to relocate or expand. Referring to the area as “greater Eugene” is better than “southern Willamette” or “Lane metro” simply because people around the world have heard of Eugene. If you haven’t gotten their attention, you can’t build their interest.

The benefits of Wimbish’s success will be spread across the region. Families may find attractive housing in one place, jobs they enjoy in another, with entertainment opportunities in a third. Better jobs across the entire region are welcome, as Eugene becomes the go-to option for any of those three.

What matters most is that now we can all pull in the same direction, hoping for exactly the same outcome: a greater greater Eugene.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Deady’s Different on the Inside. We All Are.

August 19th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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Yale University just completed a “denaming” process similar to what University of Oregon President Michael Schill is contemplating for Deady Hall and Dunn Hall. In predictable academic fashion, Yale found a way to split the difference. They chose to retain the name for Calhoun College, but dropped the traditional title of “master” and replaced it with “head of college” for each of its residential colleges.

Oregon can follow that path by renaming the more recent Dunn Hall and retaining Deady Hall. But there’s an opportunity here to dig a little deeper in a way that both affirms the university’s mission and deeply engages its students.

Everyone agrees that learning without history is nonsensical. Learning is cumulative. It builds on what’s already known. When an instructor designs curriculum to build toward student discovery or a researcher draws on colleagues’ findings to further her own work, each stands on the shoulders of what’s been done.

New work sometimes exposes errors or shortcomings in the old work. Learning progresses when its trajectory is not slavishly linear. Past work is not erased. It is corrected.

Pursuit of knowledge requires modesty. Every theory carries with it an invitation to be disproved or bettered by those who follow. It must be that way, or learning won’t continue. When learning stops, the university will ask only that the last one to leave should turn out the lights and recycle the pizza boxes.

Progressive learning adds context to what is known, by setting it against what was known before. Of all the life skills being taught in schools, contextualizing information is right up there with home economics for basic survival. Context elicits modesty’s cousin, empathy. It’s good to know where thoughts and people are coming from.

Context is what we’ve gained from the scholarly work Schill commissioned to inform his upcoming decision. Matthew Deady “had a very complicated intellect that defies a simple summary,” the analysis concluded.

Exactly. So how can the university promote complicated intellects? Wrestling with conflicting values is at the core of its enterprise. Wherever the past and future meet, the threshold for learning is set.

Sometimes to think outside the box, it’s useful to peek inside.

The most important space inside a building has no space at all. It is a line, or as the mathematicians housed in Deady Hall may insist, a line segment. There’s a line that separates the outside from the inside. Remove that line and the building becomes a sculpture — an entirely different thing.

That line is called the threshold. It brings outsiders in. It sends insiders out. A building’s threshold is like the present moment. Each does not literally exist, except to separate old from new, out from in. The threshold is the teachable space.

Names themselves have a threshold, an invisible line that separates the thing from its meaning. Apple means fruit, but only to those who speak English, unless it means computer. The name changes, but the fruit does not.

Matthew Deady made a name for himself as a judge and a founder of the University of Oregon. But he also was given a name — that same name — by his parents, Daniel and Mary Ann. Each provides context for the other.

Which of those identical names is the one borne by the university’s oldest building? Let us stipulate it is named for the man. Let us also affirm that the man’s reputation is mutable, open to correction and improvement — as everything we learn should be.

Keep the name on the outside of the building, but use the inside of the building’s threshold to convey the ever-changing reputation of the man. Let those who lobbied for the change be the ones to change the lobby.

They may install mock signs to separate students by race. Adorn its walls with Deady’s most damning words. Sign students up for good seats to an imagined lynching.

It won’t settle the controversy. It will perpetuate it. An excellent university must engage young minds and foster active spirits. No one is completely the same, inside and out. Context matters. Schill can open that door to a vital life lesson.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Fear of a Hillary Landslide Could Produce a Governing Coalition

August 18th, 2016 · No Comments

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I hope some of Hillary Clinton’s strategy team is planning for a landslide, because everyone agrees that nobody knows what could happen. With the right plan, it won’t matter whether the landslide occurs. The specter of a landslide could suffice.

Her campaign should seize on this universal uncertainty to assemble the governing majority she’ll need to succeed after she’s elected.

In September, when voters begin getting serious, she should release a list of five bills that will top her legislative agenda in 2017, with a promise to add five more in October.

Like the Contract With America, Clinton would be calling on legislators to sign on to her agenda. But unlike Gingrich’s campaign, she would present the program as post-partisan, welcoming frightened Republican lawmakers into the fold. In fact, they would be her primary audience.

If a legislative agenda can get passed with Republicans who worried that Clinton’s coattails could have swept them out of office, that would be better for the country and the president than any scorched-earth effort to exclude Republicans from the agenda.

In the past, this could never have been done during a campaign season because both parties — but especially the Republicans — value discipline and reward loyalty. Those values are clearly losing their grip on candidates, but also on voters.

After this election, who knows what being a Republican will even mean? And if the major political party duopoly ends for the first time since the Whigs were a factor, what will it mean to be a Democrat?

With a healthy dash of magnanimity, Clinton can portray herself to voters as a policy wonk first, and a party loyalist second. Indeed, party discipline was a means to an end. She must convince the country the outcome she values most is not party dominance, but actually getting things done.

The last Democrat to enter the Oval Office without a majority in both houses of Congress was Grover Cleveland in 1885. Each of the eight Democratic presidents since started his first term with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate. In recent years, that unanimity of leadership has been lost in two years or less. Clinton’s goal should be for it to matter less.

Democrats need 30 seats to flip in the House of Representatives to regain a legislative majority there. The Senate is more within reach, but less valuable without a House majority to accompany it.

Clinton stands a better chance by welcoming political adversaries as governing partners. Voter have taken every recent opportunity to express disgust with Washington, DC. They may not agree whether it’s the federal government’s inaction and overreach, but they’re near unanimous about wanting to see change. A post-partisan governing coalition would address both ends of the political spectrum.

Republican leaders normally would pressure candidates to hew the party line, but that line has gotten awfully squiggly in Donald Trump’s hand. If Clinton reaches out her hand to embattled Republican Congressional candidates, it may begin to look like a life line. Her pledge to them would be only to hold her fire against them, and to say publicly that she can work with either candidate.

If September brings Clinton a couple dozen Republicans to her coalition campaign, October can be spent raising the stakes with additional legislative initiatives being added each week.

Republican candidates who signed on will be boxed in. Will they still support the program’s first five agenda items or renege on their signed pledge? Once they’ve agreed to work with the opposing party, they can’t publicly blanch at the rising price. Not without inviting the focused fury of the Democratic machine in the final weeks of the campaign.

Voters seem to be signaling that their deepest desire is to see government begin working for them again. Backing away from a post-partisan Contract With America, even over issues the voters may be ambivalent about, would be very risky.

But that almost shouldn’t matter to Clinton. As Gingrich showed in 1995, when your personality is less than winsome, keeping the focus on governance will please voters more than if they look too closely at you.


Don Kahle ( blogs at

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